Warm Winter Weather May Cause Early Rise in Feral Cat Populations

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO – Sadly kitten season is coming early this year, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Cat biology depends mainly on the cycle of the seasons. Due to the warmer weather winter, we should expect to see a jump in the local population of feral cats, said Carrie Brown, who currently works as a veterinary technician at the Angels for Animals rescue agency.

Brown said cats are polyestrous, which means that they come into heat year round, depending on the weather. This differs from dogs, who go into heat about twice a year.

In areas where winter is mild, cats will mate all year-round. But in Ohio, most litters are born in late spring or early summer traditionally.

With this December being the warmest month on record, many female cats have already gone into heat, thinking it was spring.

“The moms are not going out of heat, so they’re constantly still going to be having kittens,” she said. “Come January and even February, we’re going to be getting an increase in litters.”

Rescue agencies say they are waiting to pay the piper.

“We’ll probably see some early babies in January coming around. All the rescues are going to have an overabundance of kittens in spring as it is, and we’ll probably have more on top of that that we’ll be struggling to find homes for,” said Sherry Bankey, of Falcon Animal Rescue in Austintown.

Female cats can have a new litter every 90 days. In one year, a female cat may give birth to as many as 35 kittens.

This is why it is important to get your animals spayed or neutered.

Overpopulation isn’t the only problem on tap. Stray cats can spread diseases to house pets. Common illnesses include feline leukemia, FIV and also flea-borne diseahses.

“These diseases are so common, they spread from mom to kitten. It’s like I said, a wildfire,” Brown said.

To stop the kitten explosion, many rescues offer lower prices to spay female strays and their children.

“You’ll trap them, bring them in, we can give them the vaccines, if you want to do that, get them fixed,” Brown said. “Then we get an ear tipped, so you know they’re fixed and you’re not trapping the same cats. Then we can release them back out, and they can live out their lives without increasing the numbers.”

The alternative is more kittens, who will grow up and multiply into many, many cats.

For more information on cats available for adoption, visit Angels for Animals Rescue League and Falcon Animal Rescue

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